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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1216
AUTHOR: Thomas Gray (1716–71)
QUOTATION: The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
ATTRIBUTION: THOMAS GRAY, “Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard,” line 36, The Complete Poems of Thomas Gray, ed. H. W. Starr and J. R. Hendrickson, p. 38 (1966). Originally published in 1751.

“Nobody knew that [Major General James] Wolfe, reciting Gray’s Elegy in 1759 as he rowed up the St. Lawrence [to Quebec] the night before his death, said that ‘he would prefer being the author of that poem to the glory of beating the French tomorrow,’ until in 1815, in Vol. VII of the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, appeared a biography of its secretary, John Robison, LL. D., professor of natural philosophy in the University of Edinburgh, who as a young man had been a midshipman in Wolfe’s flotilla.”—Carroll A. Wilson, “Familiar ‘Small College’ Quotations, II: Mark Hopkins and the Log,” The Colophon, spring 1938, p. 204.
SUBJECTS: Mortality